Providing a ‘welcoming and safe’ campus

Monday, April 4, 2016

On her first day in office, Tuesday, March 1, University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings shared the following with the system’s faculty, staff and students:

Our public universities have an economic and a civic imperative to help many more people—particularly people of color and those from first-generation and low-income families—achieve at much higher levels.
Achieving this goal begins with ensuring that our campuses are welcoming and safe places for students and faculty of all races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and gender identities to live and learn and work alongside one another.

Keeping Appalachian a “welcoming and safe” place requires constant vigilance, exploration and innovation. Assuring the wellness, health and safety of our students, faculty and staff is one of our top priorities.

Our community cares and is committed to action, as is the university system. With the leadership of Dean of Students and Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Development JJ Brown, along with recently appointed Director of Wellness and Prevention Dr. Alex Howard, Appalachian offers a plethora of opportunities and resources for our Appalachian family.

One of Dr. Howard’s goals is to establish a system of data collection and analysis that will inform the actions of his office and the university. “Instead of creating programs and services because we think we should,” he explained, “we need an understanding of what is occurring within the student body.” To that end, last fall Dr. Howard engaged in a deep dive of data assessment around students’ health and wellness issues – drug use and abuse, interpersonal violence, and mental and sexual health.

The sample was relatively small—1,144 students—but the survey involved face-to-face engagement with most of the participants. Dr. Howard will be sharing those results with the campus at large in town hall style gatherings in April. Open discourse and exchange is the foundation for change and expect these discussions to inform and direct us. We are, in Dr. Howard’s words, bringing truth through data.